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Kurds clash with extremists in northern Syria

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BEIRUT (AP) - Heavy fighting broke out Sunday between an extremist group and Kurdish gunmen in northern Syria, activists said, adding that jihadis have captured a dozen fighters.

Kurdish fighters and jihadis have been fighting each other since last year and clashes between the two sides intensified earlier this month after jihadis started using weapons recently captured from government forces in neighboring Iraq.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Turkey-based Kurdish activist Mustafa Osso said the clashes concentrated in the region of Kobani, also known as Ayn Arab.

The Observatory said 12 Kurdish fighters have been missing since Saturday during battles with the Islamic State group. Osso confirmed jihadis captured "a number of fighters."

Barzan Isso, a Kurdish journalist in Kobani, said officials have received photographs of eight dead Kurdish fighters. He said it is not clear if they were captured alive and killed later.

The clashes come after the Islamic State group seized territories straddling Syria and neighboring Iraq and declared a self-styled Islamic caliphate. Most of the land was seized in June during a push across Iraq. They captured large amounts of weapons left behind by Iraqi troops including U.S.-made armored personnel carriers, Humvees and artillery.

Kurds are the largest ethnic minority in Syria, making up more than 10 percent of the country's prewar population of 23 million. They are centered in the impoverished northeastern province of Hassakeh, wedged between the borders of Turkey and Iraq.

Syria's conflict that began in March 2011 has killed more than 170,000 people, activists say.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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